Agriculture has been important to Orange since its foundations in 1860 with apple, cherry and stonefruit orchards leading the way. Vineyards had been planted in the 1920s but it wasn’t until 1980 that the focus turned to wine grapes. The first vines were planted at the Nashdale Vineyard on the western outskirts of Orange and the Sons & Brothers vineyard at Millthorpe. Over the next decade local families like d’Aquino (Highland Heritage) and Smith (Canobolas Smith) were joined by energetic newcomers at Cargo Road Wines, Forest Edge and the Doyles at Bloodwood. Things took a big leap forward when then Rosemount Estate winemaker, Philip Shaw planted his 47-hectare Koomooloo vineyard. The Koomooloo fruit went to Rosemount until the launch of Philip Shaw Wines in 2004.
The 1990s saw a flood of plantings across Australia with Orange benefitting from the rapid expansion with a mix of traditional orchardists (like the Hoskins at Brangayne) planting wine grapes and larger commercial ventures, some operating as managed investment schemes. The Cumulus Vineyards at Molong is an excellent resource that was spawned by the latter scenario. The Orange G.I. (Geographic Indicator) was registered in 1996 with the first Orange Wine Show judged in 2002.
The area under vine is now over 1100 hectares with additional 300 in the surrounding Central Ranges Zone. While there’s been little expansion of vineyards over the last decade, it’s the influx of both new and experienced winegrowers that’s taken the Orange Region to a higher plane. Many of the regions producers now boast onsite wineries with several others having significant vineyard operations. Boutique wineries abound reflecting the influx of enthusiastic, quality-focussed winegrowers. The growing band of environmentally aware winegrowers also acknowledge the importance of organic and bio-dynamic viticulture in the modern world. Orange boasts Australia’s first NCOS certified carbon neutral winery. The region has also attracted interest from the Hunter Valley and Mudgee with several leading producers now sourcing grapes from Orange.
It’s taken just 40 years for the Orange Wine Region to stake its claim as one of Australia’s top wine regions with more than 60 vineyards planted and 40 cellar doors open to the growing flock of eager wine lovers from across Australia and around the globe.